P: Program Auto Mode
There is a reason that Program Auto (P) mode is only one click away from the Intelligent Auto mode: With respect to aperture and shutter speed, the camera is doing most of the thinking for you. If that is the case, why use Program Auto mode instead? Program Auto mode gives you the ease of use offered by Intelligent Auto Mode, and adds the ability to change settings like ISO and white balance. Think of a family picnic outdoors in a partial shade/sun environment—I want great-looking pictures, but I’m not looking for anything to hang in a gallery. I might use Program Auto mode because it’s quick and easy, but it gives me more control than the automatic modes, including Intelligent Auto Plus, can deliver.
When to use Program Auto (P) mode instead of the automatic modes
- When shooting in a casual environment where quick adjustments are needed
- When you want control over the ISO
- If you want to make corrections to the white balance
Let’s go back to our picnic scenario. As I said, the light is moving from deep shadow to bright sunlight, so the camera is trying to balance our three photo factors (ISO, aperture, and shutter speed) to make a good exposure. Since the idea is to take more control of my images, I’ll choose a white balance setting that is appropriate for the conditions. In this case I would probably choose the Daylight setting. Then I would choose an appropriate ISO setting. The lower the ISO number, the better the quality of our photographs, but the less light sensitive the camera becomes. It’s a balancing act, with the main goal always being to keep the ISO as low as possible—too low an ISO, and we will get camera shake in our images from a long shutter speed; too high an ISO means we will have an unacceptable amount of digital noise. For our purposes, let’s go ahead and select ISO 400 so that we provide enough sensitivity for those shadows while allowing the camera to use shutter speeds that are fast enough to stop motion.
With the ISO selected, we can now make use of the other controls built into Program Auto mode. By rotating the Front dial (the Control dial on the GM1), we have the ability to shift the program settings. Remember, your camera is using the internal light meter to pick what it believes are suitable exposure values, but sometimes it doesn’t know what it’s looking at and how you want those values applied (Figures 4.1 and 4.2). With the program shift, you can influence what the shot will look like. Do you need faster shutter speeds in order to stop the action? Just turn the Front dial (GM1: Control dial) clockwise. Do you want a larger aperture so that you get a narrow depth of field? Then turn the dial counterclockwise until you get the desired f-stop. By clicking and rotating the Rear dial (GM1: , then Control dial), we can adjust the exposure compensation. Turn the dial to the left to make the image darker, and to the right to make the image brighter.
Figure 4.1 This is my first shot, using Program Auto mode. The camera chose f/8, which gives me enough depth of field that the foreground and background are in focus.
ISO 200 • 1/160 sec. • f/8 • 20mm lens
Figure 4.2 I turned the Front dial on my GX7 to “shift the program.” I opened up the aperture to blur the background. Notice that the camera kept the exposure the same by changing both the aperture value and the shutter speed.
ISO 200 • 1/3200 sec. • f/1.8 • 20mm lens
Let’s set up the camera for Program Auto mode and see how we can make all of this come together.
Setting up and shooting in Program Auto mode
- Turn your camera on, and then turn the Mode dial to align the P with the indicator line.
To select your ISO on the GX7, press the ISO button (), rotate the Rear dial to the desired setting, and press the Rear dial to select (the ISO selection will appear in the electronic viewfinder and the rear LCD panel).
On the GM1, press the Fn1 button we assigned to ISO in Chapter 1. Rotate the Control dial to the desired setting and press MENU/SET.
- Point the camera at your subject, and then activate the camera meter by depressing the shutter button halfway.
- View the exposure information in the electronic viewfinder or on the display panel on the back of the camera.
- While the meter is activated, roll the Front dial (GM1: Control dial) left and right to shift the program and use a different aperture and shutter speed combination. Click and turn the Rear dial (GM1: , then Control dial) to adjust the exposure compensation.
- Select the program and exposure that is right for you and start shooting. (Don’t worry if you aren’t sure what the right exposure is. We will start working on making the right choices for those great shots beginning with the next chapter.)